• Dr. Mohan Dewan


Brands are more than just a name or a logo; they embody a story and a legacy that have been built over time. Behind every brand, there is a rich history and a unique set of circumstances that have shaped its identity and contributed to its success. These background stories have become an integral part of the brand, and they serve as an essential tool for building brand loyalty and connecting with customers. There are various brands that you think you know about, but do you really know them? In this series of articles we will be telling you unknown stories behind the known brands.


Did you know that there was once a time in India when statistics showed that only 10% of the villages in India had safe drinking water whereas 90% had access to Coca-Cola? The Coca-Cola Company, an American based company founded in 1892, is undoubtedly the most successful soft drink supplying company today, throughout the world. Coca-Cola is one of the go-to brands of many consumers today. Consumers drink, on an average, more than 1.8 billion servings each day. But do you know that the world most popular drink was actually invented accidentally?

It all begins when Confederate Colonel John Pemberton was wounded in the American civil war. He was on a quest to find a substitute for morphine (a pain relieving drug).Pemberton started working on making a pain relieving drug by combining cola nuts and cola leaves. While working on it, his assistant accidentally mixed this concoction of cola leaves and cola nuts with carbonated water. This was the birth of Coca-Cola in 1886. It was sold at Jacob’s Pharmacy in downtown Atlanta for five cents a glass.

To make the brand more appealing, Pemberton’s partner and bookkeeper, Frank M Robinson coined the name with two Cs and named it Coca-Cola with a unique script. Hand- painted advertisements of Coca-Cola were displayed in public places to promote the brand. An average of 9 drinks per day was sold in 1888.

Shortly after Coca-Cola hit the market; Pemberton fell ill and was almost bankrupt. In desperation, he began to sell portions of the ownership rights of Coca-Cola to various partners and just before his death in 1888; Pemberton sold the remaining rights to a businessman, ASA Griggs Candler. Candler proceeded to buy the additional rights to gain total control over Coca-Cola.

Candler, who had strong business acumen, had a budget of $11000 approved specifically for advertising of the brand in 1892. Coca-Cola’s logo was advertised on calendars, clocks, urns and fans. Pharmacists sold equipment bearing the Coca-Cola’s name on them. Coca-Cola’s salesmen were sent out to different States to ensure that the pharmacies were mixing the concoction correctly and advertising the brand in their stores. At that time, Coca-Cola syrup used to be sold to the pharmacies and they used that syrup to make Coca-Cola. To the pharmacists and stores who were reluctant to sell Coca-Cola, Candler gave away free coupons and the first barrel of Coca-Cola syrup for free. With an increase in their sales, these pharmacists always used to come back to purchase more syrup. Furthermore, one of the first ever celebrity endorsements was signed by Coca-Cola with the actress and singer Hilda Clark who became the face of Coca-Cola then. By implementing these strategies, Candler announced in 1895 that Coca-Cola was being sold in every State of the United States.  

Coca-Cola’s sales hit one million gallons in 1904. For the first time, the advertising budget of Coca-Cola had surpassed $100000. With this strong marketing game, Coca-Cola pushed its boundaries to Canada, Cuba and Panama where bottling operations began.

Coca-Cola’s success made many other soft drink manufacturers imitate its bottles and fonts with slight variations. As a solution to this problem, Coca-Cola organized a competition for a bottle to be designed for Coca-Cola which was so distinctive that it could be recognized even in the darkness or lying broken on the ground. Answering to Coca-Cola’s call, The Root Glass Company designed and registered a bottle to be patented under the name of Alexander Samuelson. This patent was registered on November 16th, 1916. The Root Glass Company emerged victorious in the competition and they became the designers of the unique contoured bottle for Coca-Cola. They entered into an agreement with Coca-Cola to have six glass companies across the US for bottling. Further, in 1977, the Coca-Cola’s bottle was registered as a trademark for its unique packaging by the US Patent Office.

Coca-Cola was rapidly coming up with new branding strategies to expand its empire.  One such unique and revolutionary branding campaign was carried out by Coca-Cola by advertising the Red Santa Claus. What is the first thing that comes to everyone’s mind when asked about Santa Claus? A happy, plump man wearing a red suit with a white beard right? It is astonishing that the original Santa Claus never wore a red suit! Coca-Cola has played a huge role in making everyone think that Santa Claus wore a red suit instead of a green one, which was the original version of Santa Claus. The Coca-Cola Company started their campaigning for Christmas in 1931. An illustrator Haddon Sundblom was commissioned to advertise for the brand. Sunblom, inspired by Clement Moore’s poem “A visit from St Nicholas”, created the jolly version of Red Santa Claus we all know today.

In 1985, Coca-Cola created history to become the first soft drink to be consumed in space by astronauts aboard the space shuttle “Challenger” who tested the space can of Coca-Cola.

While Coca-Cola was flourishing worldwide, it took more than 50 years to capture its market in India. In a movement of showing support to local brands, Coca-Cola in India was given an ultimatum in 1977 to either bid adieu or give up its secret recipe to produce in India.  Coca-Cola left India in 1977 only to re-enter in 1993. This was when the wave of liberalisation found its ground in India. Coca-Cola acquired four popular sodas which were being manufactured in India in its absence for a whopping $40 million. Since this purchase, there was no looking back for Coca-Cola in India.

With consumers drinking more than 1.8 billion servings each day, what are the key factors Coca-Cola considers while campaigning for their brand?

Firstly, the Company targets the age group of young people between 10-30 years by having the brand endorsed by famous celebrities. Furthermore, campaigns are conducted in universities, colleges to promote the brand. For the elderly who are diet conscious, Coca-Cola promotes Diet Coke.  Coca-Cola offers different packaging and sizes as per the income of the people. To target students, low income groups and middle class groups, Coca-Cola considers the geographical locations. To consider cultural differences, Coca-Cola introduced a sweeter edition for the Asian market considering their fondness for sweets.

With a staggering $265 billion net worth and its own unique bottles, Coca-Cola has made a remarkable contribution to the world’s economy today. With day by day diversification and acquisition, Coca-Cola has proved to be an unstopping force, a juggernaut.


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